The University of
Minnesota has applied for an air emissions permit from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)
in order to construct a new “Combined Heat and Power
Plant” using the building adjacent to the Education Sciences Building and the
Dinkytown Greenway Bridge on the East Bank. In order to do so they have
completed an Environmental Assessment Worksheet
. The MPCA took public comment
on the Environmental Assessment Worksheet through November 26; and will
be taking comment on the air emissions permit through December 1, 2014.
According to the University the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant will
provide the Minneapolis campus with power and steam, and reduce overall utility
costs by up to $2 million per year and will reduce the University's net carbon
footprint by an estimated 65,000 metric tons of CO2 by efficiently using
"waste" heat from generating electricity. The steam will be
used to heat campus buildings and for sterilizing equipment in the labs and
University of Minnesota Medical Center hospitals and clinics. I was glad to
learn that the Power Plant is to be fueled by natural gas. It will become the
primary utility for the Minneapolis campus and the University's Southeast Steam
Plant, at 600 Main Street SE, will become the secondary source of steam, as a
back-up to the new facility. Two aging coal-fired boilers at the Southeast
Steam Plant will be eliminated.
While the MPCA alone, and not the city, has the authority to require a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), anyone can comment. I submitted the following comments to the MPCA
want to recognize many potential benefits of this project. If it indeed replaces
inefficient and unreliable 1940s-era coal burners, moves the University away
from the burning of coal and towards its long-term climate action plan goals of
reducing the campus carbon footprint by half by 2020, and reaching climate
neutrality by 2050, this is significant and positive. I am also encouraged to
learn that it will help reduce the University’s net carbon footprint by an
estimated 65,000 metric tons of CO2 and
that it will restore an old 100 year old building that has sat largely vacant
for more than a decade.
have three general concerns that I would like to note and make sure get considered as the process moves forward.
proximity to the Mississippi is unfortunate and regrettable. While historically
the riverbank has been industrial the trend in recent decades has been to move
away from industrial and to improving public access to the river. This portion of the river represents an area
where there is very limited public access. Accommodations for trails and access
would be appreciated. Additionally, we have worked hard in recent years to
improve water quality of the river. This project could present an opportunity
to improve water quality with better management practices. More added rain
gardens and thought full landscaping could accommodate this.
I am concerned about air quality. I want to ensure that we are taking into
consideration the cumulative effects of adding this facility in this area that
has historically been home to many polluting businesses as well as the specific
impacts it may have on neighboring residential housing, including a densely populated
area across the river. Additionally, as the federal clean air standards change,
and become more stringent, I want to be sure we work hard to prevent new projects
like this from making it more difficult for Minneapolis to reach that standard.
The average for the Metro region from 2011-2013 is 67 ppb. Depending on the final standard, we will already
either be in non-attainment or very close.
Let’s work to make sure new projects help us move towards cleaner air.
I am concerned that the time allotted for comments was insufficient. I would
ask that it be extended to allow community stakeholders, including city staff,
additional time to review this project. I realize that if an EIS is required
there will be more time for comments on that and that the air permit also
needs review, but more time for comments on the EAW might also be beneficial,
especially if an full EIS is not drafted.
I know that some neighborhoods have already weighed in and it will be interesting to see what comments have been generated so far.